COVID-19: One in five Britons would have sex in a face mask

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
September 11, 2020, 12:30 PM UTC

Data is not clear on how many like doing so regardless of the pandemic…

While Britons are able to go about their business with relative ease compared to earlier in the pandemic, wearing a face mask remains part of most people’s routines.

This is more intrusive in some areas than others. Advice from the Terrence Higgins Trust, a sexual health charity, has been that people having sex with someone outside their household should do so while wearing a face mask.

Only one in five Britons (22%) are willing to don a facial covering during sex, the results of a new YouGov RealTime survey shows (rising to 27% if you exclude people who say they wouldn’t be having sex regardless).

Approaching half (46%) say they are not willing to cover their face for intercourse (or 57% of those who consider having sex as a personal possibility).

While sex with a covered face may be out of the question for most, kindling a new romance from behind a mask is less of an obstacle. Of people who would consider dating, four in ten (43%) say they’d be ok with doing so while masked up.

What are Britons willing to do in a face mask?

The results of a wider study looking at which of 12 activities Britons are willing to do wearing a mask. Do note that these results cannot be used to indicate whether it is face masks themselves that are the key factor between willingness and unwillingness to do something.

Please note all figures given below have been recalculated so that they are the % of people who would normally do these activities in the first place, and who are medically able to wear a mask. Full figures can be found in the tables in the link at the end of the article.

Topping the list is going shopping, which 92% say they’d be willing to do in a face mask. This is just as well, as wearing a face mask in shops in England and Scotland has been the law for some time.

Next is riding public transport like buses and trains, at 82% of those who ever do so, and riding in a taxi or ride share car, at 80%. Again, wearing a mask under these circumstances has been a legal requirement for a while.

Face mask willingness for newly re-opened and yet to reopen business sectors

The study also looked at the scale of the challenge facing businesses the government has only recently allowed to reopen.

Nail bars and salons were allowed to reopen in June/July under the condition that staff and customers cover their faces. This does not unduly bother the large majority of customers, with 72% of people who ever frequent such businesses saying they’d be willing to wear a mask.

Cinemas only reopened in July, with high hopes pinned on the release of Christopher Nolan blockbuster Tenet. Audience numbers have been muted so far, but it doesn’t seem to be the idea of wearing a face mask that is keeping people from attending. Just over six in ten cinemagoers (61%) say they are willing to wear a face mask to look at the big screen.

Spa and masseuses too have only recently been allowed to resume business. A majority of people who ever make use of such services (55%) say they’d be willing to be pampered while in a mask.

At the time the survey was conducted only two types of businesses are still ordered to remain closed in England: nightclubs and strip clubs. In both cases, the idea of having to wear a mask when they reopen their doors is largely offputting to patrons.

A mere 23% of people who go clubbing say they would be willing to hit the dancefloor in a mask, the lowest number for any of the activities we asked about. Likewise, few punters (35%) would attend a strip club if the price of entry included keeping a mask on (the survey did not ask what they would do if the performers also had to cover their faces).

Only half of people still working from home full time feel comfortable going back to the office in a mandatory masks setting

With the government trying to coax workers back to their offices, the results show that of the subsample of workers still working from home full-time, only around half (48%) say they would be willing to return to the office if face masks are required.

See the full results here